The place of memory
The current Antonian Museum was opened in 1995, housed in spaces facing the so-called ‘cloister of the chariots’, but its foundation dates back to the end of the nineteenth century.
In 1895, during the refurbishment and reorganization of both the Basilica and the Antonian complex, the need was felt to create an institutional place to display the different memorabilia that had being piling up, partly in the Antonian Library and partly scattered among the cloisters and the various rooms of the convent. These were artifacts either dismissed by the basilica, donated to it, or acquired in other ways.
The Museum was opened at the beginning of the twentieth century, but it was practically closed first when the Great War, and then the Second World War, made both the need for the protection of artworks a priority and the permanent display of the pieces very difficult. Only at the end of the last century, exactly one hundred years after its establishment, could a permanent exhibit finally be realized.
The present Antonian Museum presents the facies of a composite collection both for the objects and their chronology. It includes detached frescoes close to the hand of Giotto, paintings on panel and canvas, important altarpieces, wood inlays, precious textiles, goldsmith objects, stone and wood sculptures, bronzes, liturgical furnishings, tapestries, synopsis, drawings, sketches, wood models, plaster casts and more. Among the various prestigious art pieces, we should mention the detached fresco by Andrea Mantegna, depicting the Saints Anthony and Bernardino supporting Christ’s monogram. It was originally placed above the central portal of the basilica.
Because of the prestigious and centuries-old history of the Basilica del Santo, innumerable artifacts have been created for it over the centuries. The Antonian Museum displays only a small part of its collections.
Currently, despite recent scientific catalogs which have been made available (1995), it absolutely needs new showrooms to protect and properly enhance its collections.
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